For the second straight week, the Carolina Panthers will be without veteran wide receiver Torrey Smith, who suffered a knee injury in a Week 7 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in Philly and has not practiced since – while Smith will not play this weekend against the Buccaneers, his status against the Pittsburgh Steelers next Thursday on a short week is a much more intriguing question.
“That’ll be interesting to see, it really will,” said Ron Rivera. “The biggest thing we’re hoping is that he continues to make the progress he’s making – it’s a slow, tedious process, obviously; but we just want to make sure. We’ve got some guys who are playing well so we’re not forced to push anybody out on the field – we can take our time, but we’ll see how it goes.”
With no Torrey Smith, the Panthers will utilize another heavy dose of DJ Moore, who had a career high in both snap counts (71%) and yardage (129 total yards) last week; expect the Panthers to continue finding ways to get second-year player Curtis Samuel the ball, who has scored a touchdown a quarter of the time he’s touched the ball. Rivera credits the veterans on this team not necessarily needing to take snaps in practice with the added reps and opportunities to grow that the young Panthers have received.
“We have a lot of young guys that are kind of finding their way and they’re enjoying getting their opportunities,” Norv Turner said this week about spreading the ball around to different targets. “We all know the more opportunities you get, the more you want.”
Unlike last week, when a rainy Friday practice kept Cam Newton from throwing, the team rotated fresh footballs throughout practice – Rivera said they had about 20 coming on and off the field – in order to allow Newton to get his full reps on Friday.
The Panthers play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.